Day 248: Jewell Crewel

Laetitia and her group decided to go to Jewell, Kansas next. Jewell was a pretty little town of about 400 souls in northern Kansas, organized around a square more or less in its center, surrounded by some interesting brick and stone buildings. The town was built on the site of Fort Jewell, a sod fortress built by citizens for protection from Indians.

When the group arrived, there was a crafts fair going on. They walked among the tables and kiosks looking at the displayed wares, and some of the group made purchases. Laetitia stopped at a booth that featured exquisite embroidery pieces depicting scenes from the area. Staffing the booth was a pleasant older woman with wire-rimmed glasses and her gray hair in a bun. Laetitia purchased a piece and then moved across the street to a bench beneath the shade of a tree while her group continued to shop. She struck up a conversation with a man sitting there while his wife shopped.

They both admired Laetitia’s purchase, and then the man told her about Maude, the lady behind the booth. “She grew up on a farm near here. She was pretty and had lots of boyfriends, but she was independent and wasn’t in any hurry to get married. Her siblings all married and left the area, and when her folks were hurt in an automobile accident she was the only one left at home, so she took care of them for several years until they died. By then, the bloom of youth had faded and all the eligible men were either taken or moved elsewhere. She bought a bungalow in town with her share of the farm proceeds and drifted into genteel spinsterhood.

“There isn’t much to do around here. It’s a dry county, so the social life mostly consists of card parties, church basement suppers, and the like. She goes off to Kansas City every once in a while ostensibly to visit kinfolk, but Bob, who’s the leader of the prohibition advocates and the town gossip, claimed he knew someone who had seen her in a cocktail lounge there. Most folks here suspected that Bob had seen her there himself, but couldn’t admit it, so his eyewitness account had to be downgraded to hearsay.

“One time when I was between jobs she hired me to do some yard work. I went upstairs to use the bathroom and accidentally blundered into her bedroom. The walls were lined with her embroidery, but instead of the usual things she does, these depicted lovers in various poses; something of a Kama Sutra in needlework. It was beautiful work, erotic but not pornographic, but if certain folks in town knew, it would create a scandal, so I never said anything. I only tell you because I know you’re leaving town tomorrow and don’t know anybody here to tell it to.”

That night after dinner, Laetitia presented the limerick of the day to the group.

When a lonely old lady from Jewell
Found that life was exceedingly cruel
With her love life subdued
She made images lewd
On her samplers, embroidered in crewel.